Exercise and Depression

Exercise and Depression
We all know that exercise is necessary in order to keep our bodies in good health, but you may not be aware of the effect that exercise can have on depression.

There is a catch, however. When you’re depressed, it’s hard enough to get out of bed, not to mention exercising. It’s much easier to veg out in front of the TV, but what does that do for us? We waste time, we get out of shape, and we gain weight. Gaining weight makes us vulnerable to everything from heart disease to cancer, and it's brutal on our self-esteem.

According to an article entitled “Depression and Anxiety: Exercise Eases Symptoms” on MayoClinic.com, exercise may help with depression by increasing your body temperature which can reduce anxiety, by reducing immune system chemicals which sometimes negatively affect depression, and by releasing our good friends, endorphins.

So you’re thinking that exercise is a good idea, but there’s that matter of getting motivated. How can we get past that lack of motivation? Well, I remember a lady once giving me some advice about a monumental task I was considering. She said, “Don’t think about it as a whole. You don’t have to do it all at once. You could eat an elephant if you just started with one bite at a time, and continued to work at it for a while!”

That “one bite at a time” advice works well with trying to get started with anything, including exercising. Don’t tell yourself you have to join a gym and work out two hours a day, five times a week. That’s like trying to go from 0 to 100 in one second. And don’t use money as an excuse. You don’t need a membership at a gym or a basement full of machines. Those things are great, but they aren’t necessary.

Start out slowly. Don’t overwhelm yourself with unrealistic expectations. That’s a sure way to fail at reaching your goal. Doing too much in one day and getting really sore is another way to fail because it creates a “good reason” to not exercise. Tell yourself that your goal is not to get in shape in one day—-it’s to START getting in shape today.

Don’t forget to stretch before and after you exercise to reduce the chances of injury or soreness. Then do a few crunches (not 100—maybe 25), a few leg lifts, some twisting from side to side, and maybe some lunges. Each day, add a few more of each, and maybe add another exercise or two like push-ups or punching the air in front of you. Let your body tell you what is good for you. Don’t push yourself too far.

You might have an activity in which you’re interested that would give you some good exercise. You might want to take up tennis, or maybe you always wanted to try playing golf. Now’s the time to go for it. Oh, and don't forget about walking! A long walk at a quick pace is a great cardio workout.

(If you have any concerns about your health—-or maybe even if you don’t-—it would be good to ask your doctor about beginning an exercise program just to be safe. And remember that it’s always better to start slowly, especially if you’ve been sedentary for a while.)

If you miss a day or two of exercise, don’t tell yourself, “Well, I’ve blown it.” It’s just like trying to eat healthy. If you do something that isn’t good for you, that’s no reason to give up. Just start fresh again right after you do it.

When your body begins to get more toned, and you begin to lose weight, you’re going to feel much better about yourself. Also, getting in shape will increase your energy level, helping you to get more done each day.

When we believe we look good, our self-confidence is high. And when we know we’re doing something for ourselves which will not only improve our appearance, but also our overall health, we feel good about that, too.

Exercise is a win-win decision. Make a commitment to take better care of yourself. You’ll get healthier, and you’ll look better, both of which will help you to feel better. Start small and don’t give up. It might not be a cure for depression, but it’s a fool-proof, tried and true picker-upper!

Mayo Clinic Staff. “Depression and Anxiety: Exercise Eases Symptoms.” MayoClinic.com, 2009.

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